Florida lawmakers fume as Senate blocks hurricane aid for citrus growers

Florida lawmakers fume as Senate blocks hurricane aid for citrus growers 

Posted: 11:18 pm Monday, October 23rd, 2017

By Jamie Dupree

Pleading for help for citrus growers whose crops were decimated by Hurricane Irma, a plan from Senators from Florida to add money to a $36.5 billion disaster relief bill was blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday, as lawmakers said the White House made clear that it did not want to add extra money to this relief plan.

“No one can tell you why it’s not in there, no one can tell you they’re against it being in there,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) of the proposed $3 billion in agricultural aid. “But it’s not in there.”

“The Florida citrus growers are really taking a hit,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “And they have to have disaster assistance.”

But the push for extra relief funds – from lawmakers in Florida and Texas – was opposed by the White House, which said it would consider the aid idea in another bill later this year.

But GOP leaders made the decision not to allow any Senator to offer amendments, worried it could bog down the hurricane relief bill – and any changes would require another vote in the House, further slowing the process.

That still left a sour taste for Florida lawmakers.

“I just don’t know why we wouldn’t do it now,” Rubio said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Soon after the amendment from Rubio and Nelson was blocked, the Senate voted 79-16 to force an end to debate on the plan, setting up a final vote on Tuesday.

Some GOP Senators said one thing that was missing from the hurricane relief package was a way to pay for the extra spending.

“None of this $36.5 billion in emergency spending is offset,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who made an appeal for budget cuts. “That’s the irony of this bill.”

But as with the first aid package to get approval in September, no budget cutting amendments were allowed in either the House or Senate.

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